With Venues Closed Indefinitely, Jazz Musician Kerry Politzer Has Started Hosting Shows in Her Driveway

“I almost didn’t even realize how important music was to me, even being a musician and a music teacher. Not until all of this started.”

The best place in Portland to hear local jazz is no longer a wine bar, candlelit club or swanky restaurant. It's a driveway in Southeast Portland.

Every Friday night near Tabor Bread, you can hear everything from bossa nova, dueling Latin guitars and contemporary jazz emanating from the driveway outside local jazz musician Kerry Politzer's house.

"Music is something that brings people together," says Politzer. "We're so isolated and divided these days. I just want to bring—it sounds maybe hokey or corny—but I want to bring some love into the world."

Before COVID-19, Politzer taught in-person music courses at University of Portland and Portland State University and played piano around Portland with her group, Bossa PDX.

"I almost didn't even realize how important music was to me, even being a musician and a music teacher," she says. "Not until all of this started."

So Politzer started hosting and livestreaming weekly jazz performances outside her bungalow home, a series called Driveway Jazz. Local groups and musicians perform in front of a small, socially distanced audience. (Politzer doesn't post her address online but sometimes gives it out if asked via direct messaging on social media.) The sets are also livestreamed on Driveway Jazz's Facebook page so anyone can enjoy the grooves and sambas.

Politzer doesn't have much experience with livestreaming or video production—she streams Driveway Jazz's shows using just her iPhone. But in the driveway, audiences are more attentive than when she plays in a club. From inside her house, her children watch the "music customers" applaud after every solo.

No one knows for sure when music venues will be safe to open up again. So Politzer plans to keep driveway jazz going for as long as necessary, and she's considering the prospect of hosting the series next summer as well.

"Hopefully, one day," she says, "when things get back to normal—if they do—we will have served our purpose by keeping culture alive, keeping the arts alive and helping to keep the jazz community united."

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